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A Post-Agrarian RegionalismforAppalachia by Jim Wayne Miller ". . . we learn time and again from the southern past and the history of others that to change is not necessarily to disappear. And we learn from modern psychology that to change is not necessarily to lose one's identity: to change, sometime, is to find it. -George Brown Tindall The Ethnic Southerners It has been fifty years since the publication of I'll Take My Stand, ! essays by twelve Southerners who defended the culture of the south—her agrarian traditions and all they implied—against the industrialism and materialism of the North. The Agrarians advocated a regionalist policy meant to express itself in economics, politics , education, religion, literature and the arts. But while the agrarians pursued successful and, in many instances, distinguished careers as poets, novelists, critics, and teachers of several academic disciplines, their regionalism did not succeed as a program. Today, in the last third of the twentieth century, it might seem in the South that the regionalism of the first third of the century had entirely disappeared. Indeed, not long ago in the New York Times Book Review, Edward Hoagland declared that there are no longer any regions in America.2 While it is true that there is no regional movement identified with the South today comparable iñ its sense of urgency to that which arose in the Thirties, news of the death of regionalism in the South is not so much exaggerated as it is uninformed. More to the point is John Flanagan's observation that "regions endure, but with different parameters and a variety of focal points."3 Today the focal point of regionalism in the South is to be found in Appalachia. Interest in Appalachia is nothing new. As Robert Munn has pointed out, Appalachia has been "discovered" about once every generation since the Civil War.4 Much of the current interest in Appalachia is nothing more than "nostalgie de la boue," that romanticizing of primitive souls, or radical chic indulged in by affluent people from outside the region.^ Surely much of the activism on the part of idealistic young people who came into Appalachia during the War on Poverty in the Sixties amounted to no more than the "moral harlotry" described by William Irwin Thompson: "One inserted one's conscience into the South, did a few things, finished off, and withdrew to one's former life relieved."" But during the past fifteen or twenty years a more serious and sustained concern with Appalachia has been evidenced in the publications and activities of individuals, groups and organizations within the region. This regional quickening cultivated in the mountain South since its latest discovery in the Sixties may be longer-lived and of greater importance to the region and the nation than any of the discoveries which preceded it. There are several reasons why this may be so. Current regional awareness has the advantage of drawing strength and guidance from the best products of previous discoveries. ' The current movement also includes an element of "Appala58 chian consciousness" cultivated in the region by Appalachians themselves, who are creating a regional identity which does not consist of deficiencies. This emphasis on Appalachian consciousness has led to the establishment of Appalachian Studies programs in schools throughout the region,° and to the creation of anthologies, casebooks , journals and special Appalachian Collections in college, university and high school libraries." A recent call for "An Academy of Appalachian Studies" is reminiscent of Allen Tate's desire to create "an intellectual situation interior to the South."10 But there is an even more important reason why the current Appalachian regionalism may be more important and durable than any regional awareness which has preceded it: Appalachian regionalism today is not an isolated phenomenon—not isolated from what has preceded it in the South, nor from other movements throughout the world. In our time, people everywhere are re-discovering the regions and provinces. An editor recently spoke of world-wide "local centripetalism."11 And according to Rene Dubos, "We are beginning to witness a revival of regionalism that will complement the global point of view." This revival comes as a reaction to a powerful trend toward uniformity; it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2692-9287
Print ISSN
2692-9244
Pages
pp. 58-71
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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